Calculating thermodynamic data for transitions of any molecularity from equilibrium melting curves

Luis A. Marky, Kenneth J. Breslauer

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In this paper, we derive the general forms of the equations required to extract thermodynamic data from equilibrium transition curves on oligomeric and polymeric nucleic acids of any molecularity. Significantly, since the equations and protocols are general, they also can be used to characterize thermodynamically equilibrium processes in systems other than nucleic acids. We briefly review how the reduced forms of the general equations have been used by many investigators to evaluate mono‐ and bimolecular transitions, and then explain how these equations can be generalized to calculate thermodynamic parameters from common experimental observables for transitions of higher molecularities. We emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of each method of data analysis so that investigators can select the approach most appropriate for their experimental circumstances. We also describe how to analyze calorimetric heat capacity curves and noncalorimetric differentiated melting curves so as to extract both model‐independent and model‐dependent thermodynamic data for transitions of any molecularity. The general equations and methods of analysis described in this paper should be of particular interest to laboratories that currently are investigating association and dissociation processes in nucleic acids that exhibit molecularities greater than two.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1601-1620
Number of pages20
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1987

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Organic Chemistry


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